Transcript of Doorstop Interview by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, at the Sidelines of the AIBI Maxwell Official Launch on 1 September 2022

Published: 01 September 2022

Question: Minister, can you share with us your comments about the recent incident involving Schooling and Amanda?

Minister: I have given my comments in two Facebook posts. 

First, both Schooling and Amanda did wrong, and they have admitted that they have done wrong, and for that, they have been dealt with in accordance with the rules. 

Second, at the same time, I see some comments that seek to almost deny or say that these mistakes by the two of them sort of erase their achievements. I think most Singaporeans won’t agree with that. Their achievements are tremendous. They have given much, and they have much to give with their dedication, their energy, and their focus. And one mistake doesn’t erase all of that. Think of Schooling, think of the 2016 100m butterfly finals, think of who he faced off with – three great champions, Chad le Clos from South Africa, László Cseh from Hungary, and Michael Phelps who has a claim to be one of the greatest of all time swimmers in history. Schooling beat all three of them. In fact, the three of them were so close that they were joint second. He brought immense glory, and he did a lot for Singapore swimming. So has Amanda, and so have many others, and I think we need to recognise that and see things in perspective. But when you make a mistake, the rules will apply regardless of who you are. That is what is meant by the law is equal. But let’s not deny or forget or try to erase, or speak as if the achievements don’t matter. And they have much more to give. That is my belief.

Question: There have been some online comments that the warnings they were given have been too lenient. What are your thoughts on that?

Minister: I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. 

First, in Singapore, we make a clear distinction between drug traffickers and those who consume drugs. With traffickers, we are very strict. In fact, if you traffic in more than 15 grammes of heroin, for example, that is enough to feed 180 persons for one whole week, you could face capital punishment. So, we are very strict on drug traffickers because you are seeking to profit from the misery of others.

At the same time, consumers, we really treat you as persons who need help. And if there is evidence during tests, other tests, that you are consuming drugs now, you could face a range of – it's an offence, but generally there will be no criminal charge, and there will be no criminal record. You will be treated in DRC, you could be subject to supervision, depending on the facts. So, we take a much softer approach towards those who have consumed drugs but haven't committed any other offence. Drug traffickers are different, as I said. 

What's the situation with Schooling and Amanda? In their case, the urine tests were negative. There is no conclusive evidence or clear evidence of current drug consumption. You know, if I were to tell Singaporeans, 20 years ago, someone committed an offence by taking drugs when they were in university overseas. Do Singaporeans expect that such a person will be subjected to DRC? It's still an offence because there is no time limitation in criminal law, no statutory limitation, but you know, one takes an approach to these things. If there is current consumption, one approach is taken. If there is no evidence of current consumption, another approach is taken. And in the case of Amanda, she was warned not for consumption, because there was no evidence of consumption, but for possessing a drug utensil. In the case of Schooling, because he's a serving full-time National Serviceman (NSF), but because there was no evidence of current consumption, nevertheless, because he admitted to having consumed while he was an NSF, he was handed over to MINDEF, and they dealt with him. 

So, both Amanda and Schooling were not given any favourable or preferential treatment. They were treated like others in similar situations.

Question: Minister, you’ve always maintained that Singapore must work towards being drug-free, and not drug-tolerant. So, in light of what happened also in other parts of the world, including Thailand legalising cannabis, is the Government going to look into increasing anti-drug education and will ICA maybe tighten checks for travellers returning from countries like Thailand? 

Minister: I think the fact that it is more easily available around the region will make our tasks harder. I’ve said that publicly. We just have to deal with those challenges.

Preventive drug education is something we focus on, both in the schools as well as outside. It’s a lot of effort, and it’s because of all the efforts that you see – Singapore, we are relatively drug-free, and our streets are much safer compared with most places in the world. And we just have to continue. It's like swimming against the tide, given what's happening in the region.

Question: Minister, what are the potential implications of this incident on Singapore’s fight against drugs, given that Schooling is a role model to many young athletes?

Minister: I think people will also see that regardless of who you are, the matter becomes public, and you face consequences. There will be setbacks when people with high profile are seen to have taken drugs. We will just have to deal with it and continue. But there are also many people who recognise that Singapore is different, and the fact that Schooling and Amanda both apologised, would also I think, help tremendously. 

Question: Can you share your thoughts about the AIBI Maxwell launch event today?

Minister: I agreed to come to this event because Pauline from AIBI invited me. She is the Chief Executive of AIBI. AIBI and Pauline have been very supportive of us in Nee Soon GRC, in various health-related events. I also agreed to come because it’s not which equipment you use or which brand, but really, because health is important. For those who have the time, space, and ability, you use equipment or you go to the gym. But even without that, freehand exercises are very good for keeping you fit – walking, push-ups, sit-ups, various other exercises, or as I said, you can also go to the gym. 

Really, I wanted to emphasise the importance of Singaporeans keeping healthy, particularly as we become an aging society, and that's why I agreed to come. Thank you.